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Jack Kerouac’s writing is gaunt and transparent, and this is his genius. No wasted verbs or adjectives, no necessity for alliteration, no long-drawn out explanations, Kerouac just states it as it is with no frittering of words; ‘And before me was the great raw bulge and bulk of my American continent; somewhere far across, gloomy, crazy New York was throwing up its cloud of dust and brown steam. There is something brown and holy about the East; and California is white like washlines and emptyheaded – at least that’s what I thought then’
Isn’t that magical? Kerouac writes in a stream of consciousness, giving the impression of a mind at work, bouncing from one observation or reflection to another, expressing a simple flow of speculation. It is absolutely pure and unadulterated, and when you read the lines ‘There is something brown and holy about the East’ you can’t help but feel that the author’s nailed it. He’s given a full description of New York, Detroit and Chicago in just nine words. This is such subtle and exquisite writing. Nobody could write like that nowadays. It would take three undernourished chapters for any other writer to reach the conclusion that New York is brown and holy.
Jack Kerouac’s internal monologue bleeds, leaks and oozes onto the page – and it truly was one page because typing at about 100 words per minute in an explosion of gifted energy, he found replacing regular sheets of paper in his typewriter just interrupted his flow, so On the Road was smashed out on a 120-foot-long scroll of paper stolen for him by Neal Cassady (Dean Moriarty). I think the scroll can still be viewed at the University of Indiana.
‘She was a fetching hunk, a honey-coloured creature, but there was hate in her eyes.’
I love this. He’s clearly attracted to Remi’s girlfriend, Lee Ann, but knows he can’t make a move on her because Kerouac stole his first wife from Remi, and there’s only so many times you can screw a guy over. But the fact that she has hate in her eyes somehow has the effect of making Lee Ann even more attractive. The three of them row out to a rusty old freighter in San Francisco Bay, and Lee Ann takes all her clothes off and lays down to sun herself on the flying bridge with nothing to cover her modesty except hatred and venom
I liked Lee Ann.
You could write forever about Kerouac’s rare literary talent – and many people have. Where does one finish a review like this? I just don’t know. I would liken his writing to the explosion of a star, in which his luminosity increases astonishingly and most of the star's mass is blown away at high velocity, leaving behind the extremely solid and translucent core that is Jack Kerouac.
Considered a classic probably because it was the the first of its kind and easier to read than Joyce!! To some extent, the stories were repetitious but the most frustrating part was that it required a knowledge of the culture of US cities. What is Detroit, I had to ask myself? I read it when it came out and was certainly liberating opening doors to all fields of art, but its relevance now ... hmmmm!
First of all, other reviewers who pointed out that this books is boring and pointless are correct. You won't find a story in this book, there won't be a beginning, a middle or an end. But you will find a certain magic that is hard to explain, a magic that comes out of the poetry that is in every page, that connects you straight to the soul of the beatnik culture. I understand that this kind of poetic writing is not for all, some people may like it and some may not, but i think it is worth it to give it a chance. I personally read it 3 times translated in my native language and i bought it now in english too, so i can finally enjoy it in its original form!
I bought this following an article in a Spanish podcast by someone who wanted to go travelling like Jack Kerouac in On the Road. I read the reviews on the book and bought it. Although it took me some time to get through the book, it isn't a page turner that you can't put down, there are passages that evoke a time and place that the film The Last Picture Show brings to the world of cinematography. When Jack talks (raves) about a car that his friend has bought you just have to Google it to see what it looks like. The pages have some lovely character descriptions and the tales he tells of post war America highlight things that I wasn't aware of and made interesting reading. Your mind imagines the places they stop and the people they meet. Jack Kerouac has a style all of his own.... It is easy to see why this is classed as a Modern Classic.
This book is a long slog. There is not a lot of plot. It is like having someone describe to you just how fantastic their night out was over and over again . I was pleased to get to the end. However, having said that there are moments of pure brilliant poetic writing. Kerouac had real talent and it is a shame that he did not produce a brilliant American novel. There is a glimpse of an amazing writer in this long tedious book.
Nearing the end of this book now, and in real time I can tell you I am finding it tedious and largely repetitive.
Like other one-star reviewers here on Amazon, I am seeing through what is regarded as a cultural monolith. I 'get' its place in literature between the second world war and the sixties, placed squarely in the fifties where such self-serving and what many would deem 'cool' behaviour was still despised. The sixties opened the lid on free expression, which is what Kerouac was trying to pilot in this book.
But I'm afraid a non-story of a bunch of man-children (term carefully chosen) dotting to and fro' across the American continent between each others' places of behavioural disfunction makes this book an empty vessel. The whole trope, including their behaviour en route; thieving, speeding, siring children for whom they have no intent in caring for, and generally having little concern for any others, apart from those of like mind, and unable even to properly respect the woman they crave and profess to adore, leaves a void in the story and in the reader.
Occasionally Kerouac's writing transcends and becomes attractive, but the introduction to this Penguin Modern Classics print explains its stream-of-consciousness birth out of Kerouac's typewriter. It's not a good model, this book does not suggest that such impetuous writing demonstrates true inspiration or gives rise to artistic achievement.
For better male American writing I'd suggest Salinger, for one.
Almost impossible to pick a star-rating for this one. Hated it and was often bored by it at the same time as being seriously impressed and occasionally wowed. I am very glad that I've read it, it will stay with me, and it reached places other books haven't reached.
It's impossible to like such selfish, amoral people, descending like locusts across America, free-loading off and laying waste the lives of their struggling, impoverished friends, relations and lovers as well as strangers and figures of authority, acquiring no insight or philosophy beyond a hunger for more in a search for "IT" that reminded me of similar futile journeys into self in the sixties.
It's hard to be interested in the repetitious succession of their exploits, described and thrown into the slipstream of whatever breakneck crossing of the continent we are now on. (Essential by the way to read this with an atlas at hand.)
What seriously impressed me was the writing! Yes, Kerouac bashed a draft out on a continuous roll of paper in 3 weeks, but this was NOT a first draft. Yes, he undertook these mad road-trips, but he spent most of his life at home with his mother writing and fretting about writing. In her introduction, Ann Charters (who knew and worked with Kerouac) tells in some detail how he had been struggling, rewriting, researching other writers, debating with other writers for years to find the emotionally-charged way of catching the thing about 'On the Road' that he wanted. The 3-week draft was an experiment in style to try to catch this. Still plagued by doubt he produced further drafts after this one. The critic, Cowley, who championed him and finally got the book published suggested revisions that he adopted to make it more readable. Additional changes were made without Kerouac's say-so by an in-house editor. What survives all the angst, and rewriting, and furious typing, and chopping, and cutting, and second thoughts is the emotionally-charged style he was after, and it is seriously impressive. The sense of the USA in all its vastness and variety is a first for this reader. Some of the descriptions of place, people and feeling are almost literally breathtaking.
By the end I was sad, not disappointed. For the characters, for Kerouac (who died in his 40s from an abdominal haemorrhage brought on by alcohol), and for America, both then and since. Ann Charters says Kerouac envisioned "On the Road" as a quest novel like "Don Quixote" or "The Pilgrim's Progress". And yes, there is more awareness of futility here than meets the eye. The narrator Sal shows often that he knows that he and Dean Moriarty are destroying lives, getting nowhere, ruining their health, wasting their youth, even as he rushes headlong to do more of the same, hoping the American dream will be around the next corner... "the point being that we know what IT is and we know TIME and we know that everything is really FINE."
How this book is rated a classic, who knows? It is badly written, full of dreadful cliches, unbelievable and unlikeable characters and forced dialogue. The plot, if it can be called that, is incoherent and mind numbing. JK obviously wanted to be a writer but he certainly couldn't write and the book proves that. When compared to the great American authors (or any others come to that) such as Steinbeck and Harper Lee (both who should be read) it's simply lower league writing and not worth spending time nor money on. Massively overrated and don't believe the hype about it being a classic, read and enjoy some good books instead of this sub-standard third rate rambling.